Freezing Racing’s Moments
By Olivia Friesen
What I love about photography is that no moment can ever be repeated. What I love about horse racing is that no moment can ever be predicted. I think that’s what makes both activities so exhilarating when they are put together. I love being a photographer because I love catching the moment and freezing it in time forever. Too many people perceive horse racing as just racing around an oval track, but each race holds so much more than that. Most of my photos are from the actual races, but I like to show the candid side of racing, all the little things that happen before and after the race. Horse racing is full of many such moments, just waiting to be captured. Ever since 2012, that’s exactly what I have been trying to do, starting with my local track, Lone Star Park.
I love when it rains on race day, not only because of how it affects the races, but also the photos. I like capturing how the horses react to this new component to their day, and watching to see if it will hamper their run. Easily one of my favorite rain moments that I have captured was when a groom allowed his horse to stand out in the downpour to feel the rain run off his back. It was a candid moment I am happy I did not miss.
Racehorses are such big vessels of power: all speed, muscle and strength. When they race, they dig into what runs deep within them to finish their race. I love to catch the moments of quiet or calm after a race. I see in this photo a glimpse of the incredible effort that this horse expended. The veins show the power that has just coursed through them, but the closed eyes are what really speak to me. Just as we pause to regain our breath after a strenuous activity, so does the horse. I love to imagine that he is reflecting on his race and what he could have improved upon.
I love watching the grooms interact with their horses. Often times, you can catch heartwarming moments such as a groom rubbing a sweet spot, whispering soothing words to them or simply putting a calming hand on their neck. I often have to snap the photo quickly, because these moments are often fleeting. Grooms play such a huge role in a racer’s life, and often spend the most time with the horses. This is honestly where I find some of the most candid moments on the track and some of my favorites. I remember watching an older gentleman schooling a skittish horse before a race, and was impressed by how he was able to calm him down and keep him that way. There is a quote that says, “Behind every great King there is a great Queen” and in the same way, “Behind every great race horse there is a great groom.”
Horse racing is magic to me. My goal, every time I visit the track, is to capture that magic and freeze it forever, so that other people can have the chance to experience what I experience. Every visit is filled with too much for one camera lens to take in, so I have to be selective of what I focus on. I want to encourage people – especially skeptics of racing – to take off their blinders and see the world of racing, the whole picture. I truly hope that by freezing these candid moments and sharing them with people, it will bring more people to a greater appreciation of the sport of horse racing and the magic of the track.